I spent part of my sports-filled weekend rewatching a basketball matchup between the school I attended and love, Elizabeth City State University (ECSU) and UNC, the school I have cheered on my whole life. I walked away feeling good about both programs.
It warms my heart to see Head Coach Shawn Walker leading the Vikings again. I was a student journalist at ECSU when Walker was playing for the Vikings and was in Winston Salem covering the CIAA tournament when he played his final college game. I remember him as smart, fiery and competitive as a player. His team reflects his personality.
On the other end of the court, another former player was coaching a team he once played for. It was my first opportunity to see Hubert Davis leading the Tar Heels and Carolina basketball looks a little different.
To start, you may have noticed that Coach Davis is black. Given that the UNC is the first, and therefore oldest, public university in our country, it’s no small thing to have their most visible sport led for the first time by someone of color. While it’s worth noting, it’s the least important thing about Hubert Davis.
The UNC players, and the style with which they played, were a mix of old and new.
The Tar Heels were led statistically in large part by transfers Dawson Garcia and Brady Manek. Both guys are bigs who shoot well from inside, outside and the free throw line. All were on display against ECSU.
It was clear from the beginning of the game what the plan for this team is going to be. Carolina is going to spread the floor and display all the off season work they have been doing from beyond the arc. When defenses spread out to defend the shot, UNC will look to take advantage of the open lanes.
While the offense looked quite different than in years past, the defense and its emphasis and focus appeared to remain consistent. This was both expected and relieving.
As a lifelong fan of Carolina basketball, I’ve got nothing but love for men like Dean Smith, Bill Guthridge, Matt Doherty and Roy Williams. Despite my appreciation for what they’ve done at UNC, I’m okay with the inevitable changes that came with them being replaced. It also makes me appreciate even more the few things that remain just as they’ve always been.
Things like on-court communication, pointing out the source of the assist and a consistent effort and emphasis on rebounding and defense. Those are things that have been a part of Carolina basketball for as long as I’ve known.
I mentioned Brady Manek before and if you don’t yet know the name, you will. He’s a grad transfer from Oklahoma and he didn’t even start against ECSU, but he will be a fan favorite by year’s end.
He’s a 6’-9” ginger with long hair, a beard and career stats of almost 40 percent shooting from three point range.
He has been named to the Karl Malone Award watchlist at the beginning of each of the last two seasons. This doesn’t mean they expect him to impregnate a 13 years old girl in college like Karl Malone did, it’s just a poorly named award given by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame to the best power forward in the country.
Against the Vikings, Manek showed he was worthy of consideration by scoring 16 points on just 5-9 shooting and adding five rebounds, three blocks and two assists. He turned the ball over just once and did all this in only 21 minutes of play.
It wasn’t play on the court, but I was happy to see Vince Carter in the Smith Center and thrilled to see and hear Marcus Ginyard on the ACC Network broadcast. I have enjoyed following Ginyard’s career and passion for coffee overseas via social media the last few years and it was great to see the former Tar Heel back in Chapel Hill.
David Friedman is a long time sports writer and lifelong believer that BLM. David can be reached via e-mail at email@example.com.